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Fat Guy
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An article in today's New York Times about a new Native American-produced bison treat got me thinking about the bison and its kin. It has been a long time now that farmers, restaurants and others have been trying to establish bison as a mainstream food product. Certainly, they've had modest success -- there are bison products being served here and there. But it has been a long hard road, and bison may be the exception that proves the rule: it's nearly impossible to introduce a new meat into the food supply, especially the American food supply. Beef, pork and lamb totally dominate the mammalian sector, with a little bit of venison, bison, maybe goat.

So, the question is, are we just unimaginative eaters? Or are the standard meats really better? Or what?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I believe its the high cost of the product that keeps it from entering the mainstream. I would love to serve it, but it's so much more expensive than beef.

It certainly isn't the big, rich, delicious flavor that keeps it off the table. Bison is expensive and difficult to raise therefore the cost is fairly high. It sure is good though.

I think what is considered mainstream probably depends a lot on where one lives. Where I live, venison is fairly common on restaurant menus, especially in the colder months.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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....

it's nearly impossible to introduce a new meat into the food supply, especially the American food supply. Beef, pork and lamb totally dominate the mammalian sector, with a little bit of venison, bison, maybe goat.

So, the question is, are we just unimaginative eaters? Or are the standard meats really better? Or what?

Perhaps the real question is why did we stop eating a wider variety of meats. Figure out that answer, and you might know better why people resist new meats. (And no, I don't really have an answer.)

Doing a little cursory research on turtle meat recently, it seems like meat markets, at least in larger cities, used to have a larger variety of meats. And, if the old Joy of Cooking is to be trusted, rural residents use to be more willing to lots of wild critters.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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....

it's nearly impossible to introduce a new meat into the food supply, especially the American food supply. Beef, pork and lamb totally dominate the mammalian sector, with a little bit of venison, bison, maybe goat.

So, the question is, are we just unimaginative eaters? Or are the standard meats really better? Or what?

Perhaps the real question is why did we stop eating a wider variety of meats. Figure out that answer, and you might know better why people resist new meats. (And no, I don't really have an answer.)

Doing a little cursory research on turtle meat recently, it seems like meat markets, at least in larger cities, used to have a larger variety of meats. And, if the old Joy of Cooking is to be trusted, rural residents use to be more willing to lots of wild critters.

My understanding of terrapin is that it was extremely popular around the turn of the twentieth century to the point of near extinction.

I think the popular meats are the ones that are easy and relatively inexpensive to raise under domestication.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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A 2001 article by Jon Longone in Gastronomica looks at The Cook, a magazine published between 1885 and 1886. The magazine had a weekly market report listing the price of foods in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The categories of regularly covered poultry and game alone include:

Turkey, Capon, Slips, Sp'g Chicken, Fowl, Spring Duck, Goslings or Green Geese, Woodcock, Venison, Prairie Chicken, Ruffled Grouse, Doe Birds, Snipe, Dark Squab, Tame Squabs, Tame Pigeons, Reed Birds, Rail Birds, Wood Ducks, Teal Ducks, Wild Pigeons, Plover, Grouse and Blackbirds.

Edit: I know Fat Guy wasn't talking specifically about poultry, but this article mentions only poultry, vegetables and seafood.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I think the popular meats are the ones that are easy and relatively inexpensive to raise under domestication.

I think you're definitely on to something.

Add to the equation the desire for standard, predictable products that look nice under cellophane, the homogenization of taste brought about by fast food, the fact of limited shelf space, and a supermarket model that has become highly successful by catering to the most common denominators across a national market.

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There are a great many reasons why a wider variety of meat and fowl are no longer available to the average consumer.

Mostly it is about regulations that are onerous for small farmers (and encouraged by the major processors to stifle ANY competition at atll) plus the cost of labor because it takes more "on-hands" work to slaughter and pluck a dove or squab, quail, duck, goose, woodcock, etc.,

as well as ostrich and other large birds, whereas chickens and the ubiquitious white turkeys are processed almost entirely by machines.

Having plucked thousands of fowl of various types, as well as doing my share of skinning and dressing many types of animals, I can assure you that since a worker is no longer willing to do the work for 1.50 an hour, it makes it far too costly to bring to market, even without the rules and regulations that are a burden.

Fifty years ago there were still small farmers in southern California who raised "exotic" game birds and processed them on their own property and trucked them daily to hotels, restaurants and stores.

By the end of the '60s they were gone.

I have friends who raise ostrich and who have been harassed by people who they know do not live in the area, have had their fences torn down by off-road vehicles, farm from a road, so not an accident, and having graffiti sprayed on the buildings.

The local law enforcement is laughable as they seem to think it is "kid's pranks" but my friends find it odd that when they report an incident, it can take more than a day for an officer to respond but when a local beef feed lot was invaded and several calves stolen, there was immediet response and even a helicopter called into to track the "rustlers."

The total loss for all the beef animals wouldn't even come near the value of a single breeding female ostrich. Something stinks somewhere.

In heavily populated areas, such as So. Calif., many of the small farmers were zoned out of existance. Family farms that had operated for a hundred years were surrounded by residential developments, their taxes pushed up to the point where they couldn't afford them and re-zoning meant they could no longer raise any kind of fowl because of noise or other regulations.

I used to buy squab, ducklings, geese, quail, pheasant and partridge from a farmer in Newhall. Now the place is a shopping center. It was a family business and he had 9 children who helped with the raising and processing. It was also a nice drive but that was before the development of Valencia and Santa Clarita and on out to where I now live.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I think everyone has given good responses so far.

There are very few meats thay I refuse to eat. Lamb is my all-time favorite. I eat almost all variety meats except kidneys. Can't stand the flavor.

I really don't know why so many things have dropped out of favor in the American diet. None of my kids will eat variety meats, two of them refuse lamb and none of them will eat game except bison.

I have an old Betty Crocker special from 1954 that has eleven recipes for lamb plus suggestions for leftovers and how to serve it.

I have another from 2004 that I would consider the same genre. There is no mention of lamb.

We buy bison whenever it's available and find it much tastier than the beef that is sold in the area.

There are more organ meats and other cuts that weren't available here like tongue, tripe, and beef shanks that I haven't seen in about 25 years. Now they're available because of the increasing Latino community.

Love those tongue tacos!

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Bison Ribeyes and ground Bison Burgers are delicious. I wish they were more widely available.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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A 2001 article by Jon Longone in Gastronomica looks at The Cook, a magazine published between 1885 and 1886. The magazine had a weekly market report listing the price of foods in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The categories of regularly covered poultry and game alone include:

Turkey, Capon, Slips, Sp'g Chicken, Fowl, Spring Duck, Goslings or Green Geese, Woodcock, Venison, Prairie Chicken, Ruffled Grouse, Doe Birds, Snipe, Dark Squab, Tame Squabs, Tame Pigeons, Reed Birds, Rail Birds, Wood Ducks, Teal Ducks, Wild Pigeons, Plover, Grouse and Blackbirds.

Edit: I know Fat Guy wasn't talking specifically about poultry, but this article mentions only poultry, vegetables and seafood.

Part of the reason that this list of fowl is now reduced to farm raised duck etc is because "market gunning" was prohibited in 1918.

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Raising bison is expensive. The fences, corrals, headgates and other equipment needed to raise those big, tough, dangerous animals have to be much stronger than the things used for cattle.

I think goat is becoming more common--at least, I see lots of meat goats in pastures in this part of the country. But no goat meat in our stores--you gotta go buy it off the farm.

sparrowgrass
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Last week I looked at a small herd of bison on the Santa Ana Pueblo (just north of Albuquerque). I was told that bison available for food comes from culled animals. (There are animals culled by hunters too, around $1000 per ticket). There is not a great demand for bison therefore the retail price is not set by a true market - the meat is considered more of a delicacy, even in areas where the animals are raised.

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I've been consistently dissapointed with the caribou and elk I've had in restaurants, and so these products haven't really made their way into my home kitchen. I just can't really detect any stand out flavours in comparison to the beef I normally get (dry-aged, grass fed), and the preparations I've had haven't really showcased the ingredients (e.g: caribou chili). Maybe it's because these animals are now farm-raised and have lost some of their distinctiveness?

Martin Mallet

<i>Poor but not starving student</i>

www.malletoyster.com

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Insider info: My store had been buying ground bison from north of Taos for $4.50/lb from a family farm that processed at a university. They just raised their price to $6.00/lb and she still rarely has enough to give me. The family sells to restaurants and stores but does the bulk of their business at farmer's markets. Unfortunately for my customers, they've priced themselves out of our market for the most part.

I'd like to see someone corral up all of our javelina (wild boar) and domesticate them. I hear the taste isn't as pure as pig (which to me is a plus).

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I've been consistently disappointed with the caribou and elk I've had in restaurants, and so these products haven't really made their way into my home kitchen. I just can't really detect any stand out flavours in comparison to the beef I normally get (dry-aged, grass fed), and the preparations I've had haven't really showcased the ingredients (e.g: caribou chili). Maybe it's because these animals are now farm-raised and have lost some of their distinctiveness?

I've found the same thing--probably because the animals have been raised on a farm. Even the venison I get in restaurants is disappointing. It has nothing like the flavor of a wild deer.

By comparison, the horse I used to buy in Italy was usually more flavorful than even the best dry-aged, grass-fed beef I've bought in the U.S. Again, it's probably because most of the horsemeat sold in Europe comes from wild American herds.

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Elk is the mildest of game meats. Because elk feed on meadow grasses, much like range beef cattle, the meat does not develop the gamey flavor of dear and moose. Moose can be pretty strong because they feed on the roots of trees that grow into wet areas, will, like deer, strip the bark from young trees and similar things.

Western mule deer, that also feed more on grasses than the eastern whitetail, also have less of a gamey flavor.

Somewhat OT but ff anyone is interested in game birds per se, in so. Calif. info from '04 - '06

The wild game bird population in California changes year by year, depending on the amount of rain, and when it comes.

UC Davis offers a lot of help for people who want to try their hand at raising game birds.

Game bird info

And here is a document: UC Davis PDF document

It can be quite profitable. Several kids in local 4-H programs are raising birds to earn money for college. Their future production is reserved for the next two years and will be going to high-end restaurants. (They are being very secretive about the identity of their customers.)

There is also a magazine Gamebird.

And if anyone wants to go whole-hog :biggrin: so to speak, and go out and hunt your own.

You can find a list of butcher shops in California who will handle the hard part of the processing.

at California Predators Club! :rolleyes:

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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it also may be a loss of our connection to our food. i grew up killing what i ate(and never killed anything unless i was going to eat it). rabbit, squirrel, duck, venison, chickens, scallops, crabs and fish of all kinds. when i mentioned that i had made (manwich style) sloppy joes with ground bison my neighbor just shuddered. i regularly work with a fifth grade class doing a colonial america project. for the life specialists one of the questions they have to answer is what do they eat. how many times have i asked where do you live? are you near water? are you near forests? what animals do you think would live there? do you think that any animals would move through where you live that you might catch? most of them have no clue that food doesn't come shrink wrapped.

since we don't have time to hunt - nor the space - i regularly buy ground bison and, if i want it, bison medallions at the local shoprite for around 5.99 per pound. i used to be able to find rabbit and ostrich at the local acme but, since the demand wasn't there, they stopped stocking it. in many of the local hispanic markets in dover i can find rabbit. at a&s butcher in our local appletree i can get all types of variety meats and the chivo made a lovely curry. whenver john is up visiting his family i send him to quattros' for venison in all it's lovely incarnations as well as have him order my holiday capon and bring me back my duck breasts.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Several of our mainstay meats started life as byproducts.

Mutton and lamb are byproducts of a wool industry.

Chickens are byproducts of an egg industry.

Veal/beef were byproducts of a dairy industry.

And pigs ate the trash / foraged.

Granted they are not now (entirely different varieties are used for beef / dairy, eggs / chicken etc), I wonder if the desire to maximize profit from an existing herd/flock drove marketing to drive the desirability of these animals?

That, in addition to relative ease of raising. Bison are hard to herd. Goats are rather independent cusses also. Deer are commerically raised in New Zealand. They dont look like they are easy to herd or contain either. Pigs are sods also, but so cheap and all that meat from one garbagedisposal. (NYC used to use pigs to keep the city streets clean. I believe the meat was donated to the poor but not sure of that).

Bunnies tho, bunnies are easy to raise so I dont know why they fell out of favor in the US. Everyone I've served rabbit to liked it very much.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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while the cost of production for these "exotic meats" is high, it is miniscule in comparison to the cost of processing and marketing them...

margins in "factory" livestock farms are damn thin as it is, almost as bad as a restaraunt....

i have been working on a wild boar project for almost five years as a hobby...

selling shooter pigs to hunting lodges, and marketing custom labeled processed wild boar meat for those lodges.....

i have worked through all the production, processing, and logistics issues, including interstate transportation of live animals w/ appropriate health papers etc...

i have solid sales prospects/verbal committments........

but who to finance it????????

good ideas that die on the vine.........

even if i won the lottery i wouldn't bother w/ it too much like work......

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